Getting a Buzz from Writing
B. Gerad O'Brien
May 10, 2007
When I won my first writing competition I was so excited I ran all the way home. I was about eight years old. The Fun Fair was coming to our little town on the West coast of Ireland and, next to the circus that came in September, this was the highlight of our year. We were asked to write an essay on it in school, and I won the only prize - a book of ten tickets for the fair. There were eight kids in our family (What? It was normal in those days, all right!) so everyone got a ride on something. Even our mother had a go on the dodgems.
So writing was in my blood from a very young age. I loved essays and English literature, but we were a very close family, physically as well as emotionally, which meant that there wasnít much free space in our little terraced house where I could sneak away to indulge in my hobby.
Anyway, I left school at fourteen and went to work in hotels in Killarney, and I quickly got hooked on the tourist atmosphere. I felt no great urgency to write. I dreamed of being
a writer, of course. I wanted
to be a writer, but somehow life just got in the way.
When I joined the Royal Navy at eighteen I was sent to the Far East, and spent the first three years in Singapore and Hong Kong, and again I was having too much fun to write anything, although there was a story bursting to get out.
It was only when I got married and the children came along that I made any serious attempt to put pen to paper, and the result was ONCE ON A COLD AND GREY SEPTEMBER, a novel set in wartime Britain. I loved writing it, but the thing I hated with a passion was actually typing it. After working a ten-hour day Iíd be clattering away into the early hours of the morning on an old Olivetti typewriter and getting on everyoneís nerves, only to find hours of hard work ruined by some horrendous mistake and Iíd have to start all over again.
Amazingly, I found an agent almost immediately, but she insisted on some major changes. I complied and spent over a year re-writing it. Unfortunately my agent died suddenly and the agency closed. It took ages to find another agent, but he too demanded even more changes. It became too much for Jennifer and the kids so my manuscript hibernated in the attic for years. Then Jennifer bought me a computer for Christmas Ė with spell check!
This time finding an agent was an agonising, ongoing challenge, and in 2000 I had it published myself by iUniverse, a POD company. (All right, vanity! I just had to see what it looked like.) I must say Iím pleased with the end result, and Iím still approaching agents and publishers with it, though without much success so far.
While my book was languishing in limbo I re-discovered that writing short stories is amazingly therapeutic. I get a great buzz from taking an idea and developing it, often watching it evolve into something totally different from what it started out as. I realized that ideas are all around us. Little gems are waiting to be harvested everywhere we look. I also found myself listening to what people are saying, and they way they say it. For instance, the Irish are famous for their colourful expressions, always using a dozen words when one would have done, so I built on that and set all my stories in Ireland. The names are changed, of course, because I donít earn enough to sustain a major lawsuit. Iíve written hundreds of stories, most of which are still stuffed in drawers somewhere, but I did manage to get twenty of them published over the years in anthologies, e-zines and magazines as well as web sites.
DREAMINí DREAMS contains all of my published stories, of which Iím very proud. Theyíre all based on real people who passed through my life at some time or other, or events that actually happened to me. Enhanced, of course, and sometimes exaggerated out of all proportion. The title came from something my father said years ago, when I got poor grades at school. ďWhat do you expect?Ē he asked my mother. ďHe doesnít do any studying. He just sits there, dreaminí dreams.Ē
Thatís me on the cover, trying to look pensive as I gaze out at the Blasket Islands off the Kerry coast. Jennifer says itís me all right, not quite in focus, slightly vague, and blurred around the edges!
Anyway, if you do get the chance to read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
So remember, the key thing about writing is to have fun doing it. Yes, take your craft seriously Ė itís a God given gift and itís your duty to share it with the world, but enjoy it too. Donít get so immersed in it that you lose track of the people you really care about, the ones youíre proud to show it to first. (And listen to them, as well, even if what theyíre saying isnít what you want to hear!) And keep working at it, even if itís just 100 words every day, because every time you write something, youíre fine-tuning your skills.
About B. Gerad O'Brien
B Gerad OíBrien was born in Tralee, Ireland and now lives in Newport, South Wales with his wife Jennifer and daughters Shelly and Sarah.
After serving nine years in the Royal Navy, he progressed to retail management.
His hobby is writing short stories, fifteen of which have already been published over the years. His novel ONCE ON A COLD AND GREY SEPTEMBER was published in 2003
B. Gerad O'Brien Profile at OnceWritten.com